After years of heated debate and rewrites, Israel’s Jewish State Law narrowly passed in the Knesset last week. It makes official what the world already knows: Israel is the home of the Jewish people.
The legislation takes its place as one of Israel’s Basic Laws, similar to the U.S.’s constitutional amendments. The laws deal with Israel’s core values, how the government functions, and liberties of citizens. A simple majority vote in the Knesset can pass a Basic Law, but changing one requires a supermajority.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the Jewish State Law as “a pivotal moment in the annals of Zionism and for the State of Israel.”
Critics Call New Law ‘Racist’
Although the law revokes no rights from Arab-Israelis, it has fierce critics, and many are among those who believe Israel has no right to exist.
Inside the Knesset, Arab member Ahmad Tibi denounced the law as “the end of democracy.” He objects to the legislation, especially the statement that, “Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people, and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it.”
Representing about 20 percent of Israel’s population, Tibi argued that “[The Knesset] has passed a law of Jewish supremacy and told us that we will always be second-class citizens.”
Dov Waxman, Professor of Political Science, International Affairs and Israel Studies at Boston’s Northeastern University, cautioned both sides to “tone down the rhetoric.”
“As a scholar of Israeli society and politics, I think that it is largely a declarative and symbolic measure,” Waxman said, while also warning that the law “could eventually have far-reaching implications for Jewish-Arab relations.”
Netanyahu called such concerns baseless.
“We will keep ensuring civil rights in Israel’s democracy. But the majority also has rights, and the majority decides,” he said. “An absolute majority wants to ensure our state’s Jewish character for generations to come.”
Implications for the Peace Process
Some analysts believe the law will further complicate the peace process.
Fox News voiced concern, saying that “many Israelis wonder why it is necessary to legislate the country's obvious character, and question whether it will have any practical implication beyond stoking domestic tensions and drawing international criticism.”
The European Union expressed concern that “the legislation will complicate a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict,” The Guardian reported.
In the wake of debate about the law, Israel was forced to shoot down a Syrian fighter jet that penetrated her airspace on Tuesday. While some commentators attempted to link the two events, the new law was not likely related to the breach.
Please pray with us:
Thanking God for the Knesset’s action in recognizing Israel as the rightful homeland for Jewish people
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